chance of bowl: 13.6%
That Should Have Been Easier: Although the official stats indicated a turnover margin of –0-, the blocked punt and the meaningless turnover at the end of the game meant that M really was at a disadvantage in TOM of –2. This calculated to be a disadvantage of 5.5 expected points. Add in the reversed call on M's last touchdown and we all had a far more stressful afternoon than it should have been. In a way, though, it validated that Michigan is a very good team this year because very good teams manage to win even when things don't go your way.
Synopsis for Turnovers: M ended the game with a TOM of zero. For the year, M has had 6 games with a positive TOM, 4 games with a negative TOM and 2 games with a zero TOM. Michigan has lost a total of 21 TOs (ranked #62) but has gained 27 TOs (ranked #19) for a turnover margin of +6 or 0.50 per game (ranked #25). Michigan is ranked #7 in fumbles lost but is #119 in interceptions thrown. The 19 fumbles recovered is ranked #3 and is the reason the turnover margin is excellent instead of horrible.
Avery forced a fumble and intercepted a pass (his 2nd). DRob had the one fumble.
BTW, blocked punts are not considered a turnover.
(See the Section on Gory Details below for how the adjustment for Expected Points (EP) is calculated.)
The Gory Details
Details for Turnovers: Here is overall summary for all games by player (data in yellow was affected by this week's game).
Expected Point (EP) Analysis: Basically, the probability of scoring depends on the line of scrimmage for the offense. Therefore, the impact of a TO also depends on the yard line where the TO is lost and the yard line where the TO is gained. Each turnover may result in an immediate lost opportunity for the team committing the TO and a potential gain in field position by the opponent. Both of these components can vary dramatically based upon the down when the TO occurred, the yards the TO is returned, and whether the TO was a fumble or an interception.
Here are the details for the game.
The analysis is a bit tricky because: (A) the TO may directly result in lost EP for the offense but (B) only modifies the EP for the team gaining the TO because the team gaining the TO would have gotten another possession even without the TO (due to a punt, KO after a TD, KO after a field goal, etc.). The Net EP Gain must take into account the potential EP gain without the TO. The EP gain without the turnover is based on where the field position would have been for the next possession if the TO had not occurred.
The expected point calculations are based on data from Brian Fremeau at BCFToys (he also posts at Football Outsiders). Fremeau's data reflects all offensive possessions played in 2007-2010 FBS vs. FBS games. I "smoothed" the actual data.
Here is a summary of the smoothed expected points.
According to economists, “a burglar burgles because he finds it a more attractive profession than any other. Without an effective deterrent, he will continue to do so and overwhelm the courts with costly investigations, prosecutions and punishments. So, it is too with the “criminal” schools—like OSU-- that repeatedly violate NCAA rules. In the absence of effective deterrents, they continue to find it profitable to cheat. Such cheating will cost the NCAA vast amounts of time, resources and money..
What can be done? The obvious way to reduce burglary is by raising the costs of the burglar's profession or reducing its benefits.”* So, ask yourself: how can NCAA schools protect themselves from those like OSU, who have allegedly stolen players, titles, bowl games, reputation, and the resulting money that comes to the AD?
Currently, the NCAA relies heavily on information from the press, does a cursory investigation often centered on these allegations, and may then ask the school to suggest penalties. It’s like a policeman asking a mugger to suggest what punishment he deserves. But how has that worked in deterring the crimes of schools like OSU? What did OSU do with their opportunity to self-punish when faced with a deluge of national attention to the increasingly incriminating evidence?
The school agreed to give up their lying coach—with one national title—and replace him by another with two. What a painful penalty! Ouch! Did the self imposed penalties or NCAA investigation slow their coaching search?
To be fair, OSU clobbered itself with other penalties too. Like bank robbers who offer to give back the money after being caught red-handed, OSU also proposed to vacate one years’ victories and return the ill-gotten bowl money. Yet, even the bank robbers now seem more honest. In fact, OSU alums in the national media as well as OSU-controlled Columbus newspapers conveniently ignored the vacated season when they misleadingly reported that OSU’s successive BCS bowls and victories over rivals. So, OSU seemed to say: “we’ll pretend to ignore last year’s victories” (while encouraging alums and boosters to continue the misrepresentations).
Likewise, look at what OSU did to deter future coaches from cheating. First, nothing. Then they let their coach—who admitted lying to the NCAA about ineligible players-- to set his own penalty. A two game suspension….no, raise that to five...and let's call the NCAA's bluff. In fact, the OSU president said he had no intention of firing the coach—he was too afraid of getting fired himself by Tressel. Finally, faced with a PR disaster, OSU reported that they had forced Tressel to resign. But that was not exactly true. Tressel, we were told, himself resigned. Then OSU proclaimed that they had cut ties with him. ….but maybe “cut” wasn’t the right word. After seeming to take the fall for the school, he suddenly was transformed from a resigned or fired employee into an esteemed retiree. So, he got full retirement benefits, was honored in a local parade, with his exploits prominently displayed in the OSU AD exhibition of school honors. In fact, Tressel was not even dissociated from the team. He was allowed to give a pre-game pep talk prior to the UM game—as if he were still the coach
Yet, OSU boosters suggested that Tressel would soon be drummed out of the coaching profession by the NCAA in Indianapolis. Somebody else in Indianapolis must have been listening. He made Tressel an analyst there for the Colts. So, in reality, Tressel was getting paid by the pros, while OSU gave him—hush, hush---pension money---proportional to his past salary gains of $27 million. Seriously. Would the horrible prospect of getting a job in the pros, supplemented by plushy retirement benefits prevent future cheaters from engaging in activities that had already made them rich, famous, and revered as a local God? Would they do so knowing that the chance of even getting caught was small---as exemplified in the Clarret whitewash?
So, what can the NCAA member schools do? First, they can take back control of the NCAA, then they can insist on more effective deterrents.
Economists suggest that the only thing one can do to deter crime, is to make penalties much larger. In fact, the penalties should not merely be assessed so that the expected risks exceed the expected benefits of dishonest behavior. The penalties should also consider the damage done to the victims---the schools that OSU deprived of Bowl bids, recruits, equipment sales, publicity, and the future benefits of an enhanced reputation. For instance, when OSU attended the Sugar Bowl by lying about players’ ineligibility, they cheated another team of attending as well as damaged the record and reputation of their bowl opponent, Arkansas. Who knows how much they decreased the future value of players, like Mallet who dropped much further than expected in the pro draft. Who knows how long OSU had continued to damage other schools by stealing recruits and winning games with ineligible players? Who knows how many schools have suffered losses and prestige by playing a team of paid mercenaries? The length and intensity of the NCAA investigation needs to mirror the number and severity of these questions.
Likewise, it’s hardly enough just to offer the vacation of a season of wins or one game’s bowl money or even to give up a couple of future scholarships. The NCAA must prevent future bowl appearances so that other schools go. They need to take away many years of future scholarships so players can go elsewhere. They cannot be satisfied when a school, like OSU, can get rid of an offending coach, then easily attract another despite the “threat” of impending NCAA sanctions.
The presumed impotence of the NCAA threat is a signal that deterrents to cheating have failed miserably. Now, such empty threats only embolden the worst violators. Until the NCAA penalizes offenders in proportion to the damage they cause, the NCAA will not prevent future violations. Rather, they will find themselves inundated with more and more cases….like they are now.
I was thinking about Urban Meyer yesterday, and today has only compounded those thoughts with every random article or thread post.
Urban Meyer. Ohio Head Coach.
No pressure there, right?
Here's a guy whose body couldn't handle the stress of the expectations he created at Florida, the expectations of greatness and regularly performing at champion-caliber football.
Today he'll arrive in Columbus as the most heralded man ever to set foot in that cesspool of a town, praised and worshipped for what every slack-jawed Buckeye native is absolutely certain he'll bring: National titles, and several of them, in as little time as possible.
"Jus' y'all wait 'n' see-- 'Rbin's gon' take US all da way!"
They are all telling us, ever since Saturday-- just wait. Just wait til Urban gets here. He's going to win so many dang football games they'll be saying 'Woody Who?'
Urban will do it. Urban can do anything.
And, interestingly enough, we haven't even learned of their fate from the NCAA. If the governing body of collegiate sports actually grows a set and gives these hooligans what they deserve, the noose will grow tighter as every diehard Buckeye swears that 'it won't matter, Urban will win it all for us anyway."
The demands that will be heaped on Urban Meyer will be as ludicrous as the boasts being proclaimed about him this very minute by every scarlet and gray "football fan." Every ridiculous thing we read about what he'll accomplish or what he'll do to us will add to the weight of what is expected of him.
And if he fails to meet those expectations... well, just ask Jim Bollman what those dedicated wagon jumpers are capable of saying.
Can he meet what is expected of him in Columbus?
Today he is the Scarlet and Gray messiah, and Heaven help him should he not be able to produce what the Senator did under a blanket of corruption and deceit. Heaven help him if he isn't able to walk on water they way an entire fan base is today testifying him as being capable of.
Stressful? Are you kidding me?
I guess, in short, my point is that for a man who feared for his own health enough to walk away from the stress in Gainesville... this is a very curious choice. The pressure on him is already mountains more than anything he'd ever sufffered in Florida.
I think he'll win, plenty. Yes, he may bring them a national championship. But I just can't see the guy there more than four or five years top.
I hear there was some football game played on Saturday or something. I wouldn't know. I was too busy sleeping off the over-indulgence of Thanksgiving leftovers. Anyone know what happened?
Well, whatever happened, it is still my sworn duty to provide you guys with a bunch of stuff other people wrote which you could just as easily look up on your own, but I know you won't, you lazy bums.
Here are the week 13 bowl projections for all our bowl-eligible Big Ten teams, whether they have coaches, don't have coaches, or kinda sorta do but not really but yeah they do hint hint nudge nudge wink wink. (Note: as of this writing, BTN and CFN/Scout have not yet updated their projections. I'll revise when they're up)
Also, this will be the final installment of the 2011 season, since I'm assuming the bowl selection show will be on Sunday night after all the championship games are over.
|Post Week 13||Rittenberg||ESPN-Schlabach||ESPN-Edwards||CBS Sports||CNNSI||BTN||CFN|
|Fiesta||Ok St||Ok St||Ok St||Ok St||Ok State|
|Orange||Va Tech||Va Tech||Va Tech||Va Tech||Va Tech|
|Georgia||S Car||S Car||S Car||S Car||Georgia|
|Insight||Iowa||Penn St||Penn St||Iowa||Iowa||Nebraska||osu|
|Care Care||Penn St||Iowa||Iowa||Penn St||Penn St||osu||Iowa|
|Ohio (NTO)||Toledo||Toledo||Ohio (NTO)||Ohio (NTO)||NIU|
So what's new, pussycat? Not much, honestly. We'll know our bowl fate on Sunday during the selection show, but right now, everyone (except for slowpokes BTN and CFN) have Michigan still projected to go to N'awlins to face Houston in the Sugar Bowl. I can live with that.
In other news, Wisco is a lock amongst the prognosticators to whip up on Sparty and head to the Rose to face Oregon. This means most folks are liking msu for the Outback, with the Cap1 opting for Nebraska (like I said, ignore the last 2 columns for now, which are populated with last week's predictions).
Pretty much everyone is also calling an osu-Florida matchup in the Gator Bowl. The Urban Meyer storyline would just be way too juicy to pass up. I'm guessing they expect Florida fans to make a strong showing with the hopes their team will beat up on their old coach's new team. Sadly, this means an Ohio-Ohio Pizza Pizza Bowl Bowl will likely no longer be in the cards. I know, I'm crushed, too. Rather, you've got either Iowa or NW there, with the other team probably in the TicketCity Bowl.
Penn St and Iowa are currently splitting votes for the Insight and Meineke Car Care of Texas Bowls (seriously - that's the real name).
Finally, you've got the sad Illinois Fighting
Zookers TBD'ers who, on the bright side, may get to go bowling in N'awlins in the Superdome!!! Woo!!! Sugar Bo... Wait, what? The R+L Carrier New Orleans Bowl on Dec 17? Well, they were close in proximity to a BCS bowl, at least....
So everyone seems to think that Michigan is going to face Houston in the Sugar Bowl. Of course, in order for that to happen, Michigan has to finish in the top 14 of the final BCS standings. The current BCS standings come out at 8:15 pm tonight. This has been an overanalyzed topic on the MGoBoard, but there are some interesting and somewhat overlooked things that could happen next week to affect Michigan's BCS hopes. The consensus round these parts has been that if LSU beats Georgia, we should be in the top 14 and thus selected to the Sugar Bowl. However, even if that happens, there are some other teams that we should be concerned about:
1. Michigan State. If they lose to Wisconsin in a close game, it is not unreasonable to think that they might stay above us. Yes, they have 3 losses to our 2, but they beat us by two touchdowns. They have moved up to 9th (barely) in the Coaches poll and are 11th in the Harris poll. The computers have us (just) ahead of MSU, so if they drop to one spot ahead of us in the polls, the BCS rankings will probably have us ahead of them. For State to stay in the top 14, they'd have to only drop a couple of spots after a loss. A State win in the B1G championship game, while deeply unsatisfying to my fandom, would actually benefit Michigan, as Wisconsin would almost definitely drop below us, and with MSU as one of our opponents, it would help our computer rankings. It would still, however, make me nauseated.
2. Baylor. This is the one that really scares me. The computers LOVE the Big 12. Two of the computer rankings had Baylor 7th overall last week, even with losses to Kansas St. and Texas A&M. My guess is that Baylor and Michigan will almost be exactly tied in this week's rankings, with Michigan having a slight edge. The good news is that they might have dropped a little in the computer rankings, as their win over Texas Tech will not help them as much as South Carolina's win over Clemson, for example. That same game helped Michigan to move in front of Clemson in several computer polls. In any case, Baylor's game next weekend against Texas may decide Michigan's bowl fate.
3. Oklahoma. An Oklahoma win over Ok. St. keeps both in the top 14. I have no doubt that the Sugar Bowl would take us over the Cowboys, but we'd have to make the top 14 for that to matter. An Oklahoma loss should drop them past Michigan in the human polls, but they were 6th in the computer polls last week. A loss to Ok. St. (#2 in the computers last week) is not going to hurt them too much, and they'll probably stay in the top 10 in the computer rankings. That means they'd have to drop to at least about 17th in the human polls to fall past Michigan. I don't know if that will happen.
The overall math is this: We will be 16th in tonight's rankings. We need two teams to drop past us with no teams moving ahead of us. (or three drop and one moves ahead of us.) We need the following to happen:
1. Georgia loss to LSU. A Georgia win eliminates the Sugar Bowl slot. Nobody, not even Mark Richt's mother, thinks this will happen.
2. The B1G loser to drop at least 4 spots in the human polls. That should happen, but hope for a blowout either way (run it up, Bielema).
3a. Texas beats Baylor. A Baylor win probably puts them ahead of Michigan and leaves us at 15th in the BCS, which means we can't be selected over other eligible teams.
3b. Oklahoma loses badly enough to Ok. St. that the human polls drop them to about 18th, allowing Michigan to slide ahead of them in the BCS.
3c. UCLA beats Oregon. The Pac-12 championship game should be irrelevant, as UCLA won't beat Oregon, but if they do, Oregon should drop out of the top 15 in the BCS. That would be great, as it would pretty much lock up a spot in the top 14 for Michigan, and it would give the B1G a winnable Rose Bowl. Go Bruins!
We also should hope that Virginia Tech beats Clemson. A Clemson win is dangerous because it hurts us in the computer polls, and it gives a bowl game the opportunity to take Virginia Tech as an at-large instead of Michigan (unlikely, but possible). I don't think Clemson overtakes Michigan in the human polls with three losses, but it would probably be close.
The BCS standings come out at 8:15. What to watch for: the gap between Michigan and Baylor, and both teams' positions in the computer rankings. I expect Michigan to be at almost exactly 0.400 overall (probably a little above), and Baylor to be just a little below 0.400. If the gap is big enough, it could be hard for Baylor to overcome even with a win over Texas, especially if Baylor gets pushed down by other teams in the computer polls. Last week the computers had them at 0.550; hopefully they have dropped from this spot.
Edit: There has been a lot of consternation in this thread and the others that have popped up tonight about Baylor. Basically, the fear is that a Baylor win over Texas bumps them ahead of Michigan. I should know, since I said it above. Having seen the updated standings, I don't think it will happen. A Baylor win is not going to help them in the human polls. We all know that the voters have a tendency to "ladder" their votes, meaning that teams usually only drop when they lose, or if a team behind them has an impressive win. Beating Texas is not that impressive; a lot of other teams have done it too. So Baylor should stay two spots behind us in the human polls even with a win (assuming TCU beats a 2-9 UNLV team at home). In the computer polls, Baylor can only move up about one spot (ahead of South Carolina) if Houston, Boise, Va. Tech and Oregon win (as they should). The Michigan-Baylor gap is 0.04, which corresponds to exactly one spot on average between the three polls. Since Baylor can't move up in the human polls, and can move up at most a spot and a half in the computers, that gap should only narrow to about half of what it is now. Also, either Georgia or the B1G loser should drop between Michigan and Baylor in the human polls, which should increase the gap. In short, I think the Baylor-Texas game shouldn't matter. We should just need LSU to win, and the voters to drop the B1G loser below us.
The best regular season event in college hoops is almost upon us, and for the first time since I added a second school to my college loyalties, UVA and Michigan will face each other in an event I care about. Who better than your resident Virginia fan to get you up to speed on Michigan's Challenge matchup this year? Here is your scouting report on the Hoos.
UVA loves Tony Bennett. Tony Bennett is totally our bishie. This is a guy who knows how to build a program, he's got UVA hoops fans truly excited about the direction of the team, and if you asked me which coach in the country most resembled John Beilein, I'd tell you Tony Bennett. Both have unorthodox defensive systems that are excellent at throwing off the opponent; both do an excellent job of recruiting while refusing to associate with the shady side of it, both have a long-term substance-based view of building a real foundation instead of flash-and-dashing their way to the top. Very much your classy, salt-of-the-earth type of coaches, instead of a huckster like Calipari or a class clown like Bruce Pearl. Bennett is younger and a little more reserved than Beilein on the sidelines, is the only ACC coach to have played in the League, and is still the best three-point shooter on the team. In fact, he's still the best three-point shooter that college basketball has ever seen; less prolific than J.J. Redick, but his .497 three-point shooting percentage is tops all time. Bennett was also the national COY in 2007 for making Washington State a successful team. He is a Wisconsin native and the son of former Wiscy coach Dick Bennett.
(Only going to deal with the top 8 rotation players. If you see someone else, UVA is probably in foul trouble. This is in order of PPG.)
- Mike Scott (#23)
Mike Scott is the heart and soul of our team, and one of only two non-Dookies-or-Tar-Heels to be named to the six-man (because of a tie) preseason all-ACC team. He is that good. Scott is a 6'9ish power forward who is averaging a double-double, and is a fifth-year senior thanks to a medical redshirt last year for an ankle injury. He plays with a strong emotional streak and has a terrific array of post moves. He can go up-and-under, and he loves to post then face up and hit a jumper, Sheed Wallace style. Scott is a ferocious rebounder and has been since freshman year, and he's an excellent free-throw shooter so hack-a-Shaq does not work here. Michigan will need to get picture-perfect man defense from Jordan Morgan; I think he's the only U-M big man with the strength to match up on Scott. Even then, Scott will get his points, and U-M would be better served to work on shutting down UVA's younger guards than by trying to stop the veteran Scott, because they won't be able to do it consistently.
- Joe Harris (#12)
"Joey Hoops", as some have begun calling him, is really the key to UVA's offensive attack. Harris is a 6'6" small forward/shooting guard who can do a little bit of everything. His best thing last year as a freshman was a crack 3-point shot, and his handle is surprisingly good. He's also a solid rebounder, and he'll never be a point guard but he can create some as well. Harris is essentially that white guy that good teams have that drives opponents up the wall and back down. He is Zack Novak if Novak were simply a really good white guy and not GRITTY MCGRITBOMB. (Not that Harris lacks toughness, but nobody is Zack Novak. And Harris is only a sophomore.) If Harris is hitting his outside shot, that is when UVA's offense is really moving.
- KT Harrell (#24)
No periods. Just KT. Keyion Tobias Harrell is another sophomore whose big thing is his mid-range jumper. He is getting better and better at developing the jab-step needed to clear the space for it, and his handle and creation skills are improving too, albeit at times inconsistently. Harrell is also a bulldog defender and very quick for his 6'4" size. Harrell is a quieter, not-very-talky player who prefers to bury that mid-range and hustle back on defense. He can be turnover-prone at times if he gets too careless on the dribble. Harrell will likely be tasked with guarding THJ, and that will be a good matchup that both players will get the better of at times.
- Assane Sene (#5)
You won't need the number to identify him. He'll be the huge Senegalese beanpole standing near the basket. Two years ago the scouting report on Sene would've been the hoops equivalent of "good field no hit I mean seriously couldn't fucking hit to save his life even off a tee." Tony Bennett and his staff have fixed that, and Sene's hands of rock have disappeared. He's now quite good with the left-hand layin especially, and being seven feet tall, is a prolific shotblocker and rebounder. Horford and Blake McLimans may see a little more burn than usual. I wouldn't have said that two years ago, but Sene is now a legit offensive threat, and of course, an excellent defender.
- Jontel Evans (#1)
Bub Evans is another bulldog defender and a former running back as well. A tough player. Evans is a point guard who sees his job as mainly distributing. He's got a good shot but doesn't trust it enough; I actually wish he would shoot more, either outside, driving to the rim, or both. He is the team's best on-ball defender and Trey Burke will find it hard to go around him, but Evans still has work to do off the ball.
- Malcolm Brogdon (#22)
The only true freshman in the rotation, Brogdon has a good shot and the ability to play either point or shooting guard. Early in the season he was our backup point guard while Sammy Zeglinski recuperating from an injury; now things are shuffling a little bit and Brogdon and Zeglinski are still working on meshing into their roles.
- Sammy Zeglinski (#13)
Usually the backup point guard. Sammy is a fifth-year senior, also thanks to injuries; he and Mike Scott are the teams grandpas. He's always been sort of an average player, but not a bad one either. There are ways to defend him, but the way not to defend him is to make him take a wild shot with the shot clock at 1; it seems his best basketball skill is to hit a three-pointer while flying sideways into the opposing bench or backwards across the midcourt line with nothing on the shot clock. Seriously. He does this. But otherwise he is sort of a replacement-level ACC player. As mentioned above, UVA is still working on fitting him back into the lineup after what must be his twentieth injury, and the offense is still finding its way around the newish rotation.
- Akil Mitchell (#25)
An outstanding defender with occasional SUPRIZE offensive moves. Mitchell is possibly the team's best athlete, and in terms of rebounds-per-40, is second only to Mike Scott on the team, even edging out 7-footer Sene.
- James Johnson (#34)
High future hopes for Johnson, who is a redshirt freshman, but as of now, six games into his college career, is basically a replacement-level big guy. Has yet to hit his first college field goal, but a serviceable defender and good rebounder.
-- UVA's style
Tony Bennett comes with a reputation of slowwwwwing down the game, and it's not undeserved. He hates early shots and prefers the team use most of the shot clock, so you will see UVA pass up the occasional open shot. He is also one of those coaches that eschews the offensive rebound; upon launching a three, UVA's players will immediately head downcourt and set up the defense. When Brian talks, as he has in the past, about ignoring RPG numbers and focusing on defensive rebound percentages, he could not hardly be talking more about UVA if he tried; the Hoos are excellent on the defensive glass and don't care much about the offensive side of that. UVA doesn't pass up fast-break opportunities if they're there, but the players are instructed to default to setting up the halfcourt offense if there is any doubt.
-- UVA's offense
Here is where I admit my knowledge is limited. Bennett openly admitted in his first year that he wasn't fully installing his blocker-mover offense so that he could focus on installing his complicated defense, so I don't really know where the old offense ended and the new one began. UVA does like the three-point shot, and will make use of the elevator screen and other tricky screening methods to set it up. This year, because of Scott and of Sene's offensive metamorphosis, they will go inside much more frequently than they have in the past.
Based on the season's results so far, there's a lot of work to be done on this end. Shots aren't falling like they should and the team still needs to gel on the offensive end; you could see that in their very first game against SC State and it didn't help that the rotation got a shakeup three games in. The TCU and Drexel games were offensive ugliness defined. On Friday against UWGB the team started returning to form a little, so things are on the upswing, but there's a ways to go, I think, before the offense is ready for the nightly February grind of ACC ball.
-- UVA's defense
Fortunately, the defense is fantastic. KenPom currently has it ranked 9th in the country, with opponents being held to 37% EFG%. UVA employs what is known as a pack-line defense, and this isn't Beilein's 1-3-1 where it's brought out in fits and starts to confound and piss off the offense. This is an every-possession philosophy.
The pack-line is one of the most complex defenses employed in college basketball, and it's taken these two-plus years to get it working. I don't know every facet of it and neither does anyone but some of the real gurus, but the basic concept is simple. Imagine a line the shape of the three-point line and about four feet closer to the basket - that is the "pack line." Defenders are instructed to guard the ball closely when their man has it and sag inside the pack line when he doesn't. In this way it is a man-to-man defense that takes on several aspects of a zone. It is very difficult to drive against. Post defenders will front their man and deny the entry pass; because of this, there is no baseline help and Bennett has drilled it into his players' heads never to allow the baseline. From the very first practice players admitted that Bennett would "lose his mind" when his guards would allow a baseline drive, in that sheepish smiley way that says "we've all been chewed out for that."
In the past, the three-point shot has been the bane of the UVA defense under Bennett, but as players get more instinctive and mentally quicker, they've greatly improved their ability to step out and defend that shot. Bennett has also allowed more freedom outside the pack line as the players get experience in the system. You'll often see UVA's players step out for a quick harassment double-team of a player on the wing before retreating to cover their man again, and there is more denial of wing-to-wing or key-to-wing passes than in the past.
That's basically a five-minute rundown; the pack-line involves a lot more than that, and many facets of it require an incoming freshman to unlearn all he once knew about man-to-man defense, and do the opposite. But the results so far this year have paid off in spades. Opponent quality notwithstanding, UVA has yet to allow 60 points in a game this year, and has held two opponents under 40. I'm really looking forward to seeing how this defense looks against a tournament-level team.
-- The arena
John Paul Jones Arena is not named after the admiral, no, but there is a portrait of him in the lobby if I'm not mistaken. It's a very new building, just five years old, and admittedly oversized. (Designed as a concert venue as well, hence the 2,500 seats that we probably don't need for hoops.) Hopefully the opponent will draw a crowd. The student section is L-shaped and somewhat larger than at Crisler; it is behind the benches and wraps around behind the end of the court that has the columns. U-M will shoot at that end in the second half; it can be a tricky shooting background for opponents because of the student section and the indoor pergola behind.
-- The town
Many of you who might be going to the game have probably already been to Charlottesville, and it's not like this is a football weekend, so I won't go crazy here. In fact this section only exists because I like to tell people that if they visit Charlottesville and don't eat at Littlejohn's if given the chance, they're doing it wrong. It's on the Corner, on University Ave about a couple hundred yards from the Rotunda. Go. Eat amazing sandwiches.
-- The game
This is UVA's first test against a tournament-level team, maybe even an NIT-level one. On the flipside, I will venture to say that U-M has not yet faced a defense like UVA's. I'm no bookie, but I will guess that the line will be set at about seven points in favor of Michigan. The best individual matchups will be Evans against Burke, Harrell against Hardaway, and Scott against Morgan. Scott will get his points, and I think UVA is stronger on the interior than U-M is. But Michigan has an explosion of guards that should eventually overwhelm the Hoos, if both are playing up to their best. I expect a low-scoring game, perhaps something along the lines of 67-60, Michigan.
As for me, I've always said that if ever UVA and U-M met on the court, or the field, I would probably end up pulling for the team that needed the win more. That would be Virginia in this case. Michigan just got two very tournamenty-looking neutral-site wins. UVA dropped a bad one to TCU and needs a win over a quality team to make up for it, and Michigan is the best team we'll play in the OOC schedule. This would be a very good road win for Michigan - because I expect UVA to end up with a solid ACC record - and could be worth half a seed, so I won't exactly be all sad if Michigan wins. But I think and I hope UVA is a tournament team this year, and is certainly a bubble team no matter how you slice it, and UVA needs a feather somewhere; this is a good opportunity.